Most American evangelicals hold views condemned as heretical by some of the most important councils of the early church.
A survey released today by LifeWay Research for Ligonier Ministries “reveals a significant level of theological confusion,” said Stephen Nichols, Ligonier’s chief academic officer. Many evangelicals do not have orthodox views about either God or humans, especially on questions of salvation and the Holy Spirit, he said.
Evangelicals did score high on several points. Nearly all believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead (96%), and that salvation is found through Jesus alone (92%). Strong majorities said that God is sovereign over all people (89%) and that the Bible is the Word of God (88%).
They also believe in “the Trinity,” but they don’t know what it means:
Almost all evangelicals say they believe in the Trinity (96%) and that Jesus is fully human and fully divine (88%).
But nearly a quarter (22%) said God the Father is more divine than Jesus, and 9 percent weren’t sure. Further, 16 percent say Jesus was the first creature created by God, while 11 percent were unsure….
But if evangelicals sometime misunderstand doctrines about Jesus, the third member of the Trinity has it much worse. More than half (51%) said the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being. Seven percent weren’t sure, while only 42 percent affirmed that the Spirit is a person….
Ligonier’s Nichols said that while the survey results are disappointing, they’re not unique to our time or culture, or irreversible. “The church in every age has faced theological confusion and heresy. In this survey we see a wake-up call to the church. We cannot assume the next generation—or even this present one—will catch an orthodox theology merely by being in the church,” he said.
You can read more about the survey, including an infographic on the “State of Theology” in America and links to the survey and key findings, at Ligonier. The infographic compares the results for all Americans with those for self-described Evangelicals and gives a good idea of which ideas we need to do a better job at explaining, defending, and promoting.
The name Halloween is a blending of the words All Hallows’ Eve or Even (referring to the evening before All Saints’ Day on November 1). The term hallow means “holy” – you may recall reciting it in the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9).
From the early days of the church, saints (more specifically martyrs – the only persons initially recognized as saints) were honored and celebrated. However, with time, the growing number of martyrs (particularly under the persecution of Diocletian, the Roman Emperor from 284-305 AD) made it impossible to assign a separate celebration for each. Thus, various churches made an effort to select a common day to commemorate all the saints….
Many scholars claim that Gregory III chose to commemorate the saints on November 1 in order to combat an ancient pagan Celtic festival called Samhain that was celebrated on the same day. However, Samhain seems to have been a tradition limited to the Northern Celtic people (particularly in Ireland and Scotland), and since these areas were Christianized by this time, it is difficult to substantiate this assertion. Furthermore, it should be noted that the Irish celebrated saints on April 20, “a chronology that contradicts the widely held view” that Rome adopted the November 1 date under Celtic influence. Lastly, if remnants of pagan practices remained only in the remote parts of Christian lands, they were probably not of particular concern to the Christian leadership in Rome. Scholar Francis X. Weiser believes that November 1 was chosen so that the many pilgrims who traveled to Rome for the Feast “could be fed more easily after the harvest than in the spring.”
Samhain (pronounced sow-in) is a name derived from Old Irish that roughly means “summer’s end.” Practically speaking, it was a time to prepare for the harvest, shelter (and slaughter) animals, welcome home soldiers and kings, and generally reorganize communities in preparation for the coming cold weather.
Whatever claims are made about the ancient pagan celebration of Samhain are purely speculative. There were no written records among the northern Celtic people prior to their Christianization in the 5th century. Early Roman sources from the first century BC note the superstitious nature of the Celts and how they would celebrate their festivals with fire and sacrifices (both animal and human), but there is no specific mention of Samhain….
[T]here is no indication that ancient Samhain was ever a festival of the dead or dedicated to some Lord of the Dead.
How amusing and humbling it is for us to read Moses’ plaintive cry to God after his obedient attempts to help his people leads to an increase in their suffering:
O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.
It’s amusing because we know what comes next in the story. In just a few pages, we will see the most dramatically miraculous rescue of a people from slavery the world has ever seen, but here is a confused and desperate Moses, declaring, “You have not delivered Your people at all,” right before it all takes place.
It’s humbling because we know we’re just like Moses. And we’re just like the disciples, who, on the eve of being rescued from slavery to sin and death, thought Jesus had not delivered them at all.
I can’t tell you what comes next in your story, but here’s what’s coming up in our story:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Yes, for now, we have “momentary, light affliction.” We’re given less straw and forced to make just as many bricks. We’re mocked. We’re run out of town. We’re put in jail. We’re kidnapped. We’re tortured. We’re beheaded. But the “eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” that will interrupt and put an end to suffering will be even more dramatically filled with justice for evil and undeserved grace for God’s people than ten plagues and a parting of the sea. Let’s not give up now in the despair of “You have not delivered Your people at all!” Let’s wait a few pages.